Scott Horsley | WAMC

Scott Horsley

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.

Horsley spent a decade on the White House beat, covering both the Trump and Obama administrations. Before that, he was a San Diego-based business reporter for NPR, covering fast food, gasoline prices, and the California electricity crunch of 2000. He also reported from the Pentagon during the early phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before joining NPR in 2001, Horsley worked for NPR Member stations in San Diego and Tampa, as well as commercial radio stations in Boston and Concord, New Hampshire. Horsley began his professional career as a production assistant for NPR's Morning Edition.

Horsley earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and an MBA from San Diego State University. He lives in Washington, D.C.

From empty pizza boxes to Amazon cartons, household trash cans are overflowing with the refuse of our new, stay-at-home era — and cities are struggling to keep up.

Residential trash volume spiked as much as 25% this spring, according to the trade group Solid Waste Association of North America. It has shrunk a bit since then but remains well above pre-pandemic levels.

For garbage collectors, that means longer workdays and more trips to the dump.

Updated at 8:35 a.m. ET

Kris Snyder didn't set out to be a professional musician. She began her working life as a corporate trainer for a big retail company. But after churning through seven managers in five years, she got fed up. She gave up a regular paycheck and corporate benefits and started looking for music gigs.

"Weddings, funerals, parties — that sort of thing," says Snyder, a fourth-generation harpist.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

The Federal Reserve left interest rates near zero as expected Wednesday and pledged to keep supporting an economic recovery that appears to be losing steam.

Most members of the Fed's rate-setting committee said they expect interest rates to remain near zero through at least 2023 as the economy slowly digs its way out of the coronavirus recession.

Household income in the United States rose sharply last year while poverty declined — fruits of a record-long period of economic growth that ended abruptly when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

An annual report from the Census Bureau shows median household income jumped 6.8% in 2019, to $68,700. That's the highest since the government started keeping track in 1967.

The poverty rate declined to 10.5% — the lowest since records began in 1959.

Gwen Mickens was startled by the prices in the butcher case during her last trip to the supermarket.

"Short ribs are like twice as much as they used to be. And of course the bacon is more expensive as well," said Mickens, a Florida data analyst who was shopping for her husband and adult son. "You kind of close your eyes and just pick it up and throw it in the grocery cart."

Her checkout receipt topped $250.

Much of the country is facing a long, painful recovery from the coronavirus recession. But some communities are getting a head start.

Owensboro, Ky., has already recovered most of the jobs it lost this spring, even as the rest of the country is experiencing a painfully slow improvement in employment.

Updated at 4:37 p.m. ET

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the pace of jobs growth is rising faster than many people expected, but it may take years before the economy has fully recovered.

Updated at 10:19 a.m. ET

U.S. employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, down from 1.7 million in July. The unemployment rate fell to 8.4%, from 10.2% a month earlier.

While the monthly snapshot from the Labor Department shows improvement, job growth has slowed steadily since June in a sign of what could be a long and painful recovery from the pandemic recession.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Another 881,000 people applied for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department says. That's 130,000 fewer than the previous week. But the report comes with an asterisk.

The department just changed the way it adjusts claims data to account for seasonal variation. That should make the reports more accurate in the weeks to come. But it also means the reported change from the previous week is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Without the seasonal adjustment, state unemployment claims rose by more than 7,500.

The pandemic is taking a big toll on the government's bottom line.

The federal government's accumulated debt burden is projected to be larger than the overall economy next year for the first time since 1946. Debt is expected to reach an all-time high of 107% of gross domestic product in 2023.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit to reach $3.3 trillion in the fiscal year ending this month. That's about 16% of GDP — a level not seen since the end of World War II in 1945.

With the start of a new month, some workers may get a boost in their take-home pay. The Trump administration has given employers the option to stop collecting payroll taxes for most workers through the end of this year.

President Trump announced the move three weeks ago, after failing to reach a deal with Congress on a more comprehensive pandemic relief package.

"This will mean bigger paychecks for working families as we race to produce a vaccine," Trump said.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Starting tomorrow, some workers may get a boost in their take-home pay. That's because the Trump administration has given employers the option to stop collecting payroll taxes through the end of this year. The windfall is only temporary, though. Unless Congress decides to forgive the taxes, employees will have to repay the money next year. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

Americans spent more money on cars, health care and eating out last month than they did in June. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 1.9% in July.

The punch bowl can stay.

The Federal Reserve is adjusting its long-term policy on inflation and employment, and says it will no longer tap the brakes preemptively to prevent the economy from overheating — a job famously likened to taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.

Almost 30 million people are now collecting unemployment benefits. Yet President Trump still gets relatively high marks for his handling of the economy.

As Republicans focus on "opportunity" at their convention Tuesday, the economy remains one of the president's strongest selling points.

"You see the kind of numbers that we're putting up. They're unbelievable," Trump told supporters in Minnesota last week. "More jobs in the last three months than ever before."

The Trump administration has struck a small-scale trade agreement with the European Union that could send more American lobster across the Atlantic.

Europe has agreed to suspend tariffs on imports of live and frozen lobster from the U.S. for at least 5 years. In exchange, the U.S. will cut tariffs by 50% on some European products, including crystal glassware and cigarette lighters.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET

President Trump's plan to boost unemployment benefits temporarily by $300 a week is getting a fairly cool reception around the country.

Since Trump made the offer earlier this month, fewer than half the states have taken him up on it.

Summer temperatures in Glendale, Ariz., frequently climb to 110 degrees.

"I can go outside and scramble eggs on the sidewalk," says Glendale resident Leandra Ramirez. "That's crazy."

Air conditioning is essential. And now that she and her family are at home all day during the pandemic, Ramirez's AC is running around the clock.

With lights out in many offices and shuttered businesses, millions of people — both with and without jobs — are plugging in at home. Residential demand for power in the U.S. has soared, even as commercial and industrial use have declined.

First-time claims for state unemployment benefits dropped below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic hit the economy in March. Claims under a special pandemic program for gig workers and others who are typically not eligible for unemployment also fell.

The drop may signal an improvement in the job market. Jobless benefits have also become less valuable, since a $600 per week federal supplement expired at the end of July.

President Trump wants to give a $100 billion boost to the U.S. economy by hitting the "pause" button on workers' payroll taxes.

That would leave more money in people's paychecks. But the move — which Trump ordered over the weekend — is only temporary. And that could produce headaches down the road for workers, employers and the Social Security system.

Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET

U.S. employers added 1.8 million jobs last month, as the unemployment rate dipped to 10.2%.

The pace of hiring slowed from June, when employers added a record 4.8 million jobs. That suggests a long road back to full employment for the tens of millions of people who have been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Updated at 9 a.m ET

Ordinarily when people lose their job, they spend less money. But something unusual happened this spring when tens of millions of people were suddenly thrown out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 9:32 a.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic triggered the sharpest economic contraction in modern American history, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For years, Matt Harris dreamed about building a treehouse out behind his back fence in Knoxville, Tenn. He never got around to it, though, until the pandemic hit.

"It was just a matter of finding time," Harris says. "And that didn't come until everything kind of shut down for a little bit."

When the coronavirus canceled youth sports for the season, Harris suddenly found his weekends free. And his children — ages 8, 7 and 4 — made a willing construction crew.

The federal deficit ballooned last month as the U.S. government tried to cushion the blow from the coronavirus pandemic. The red ink in June alone totaled $864 billion.

The federal government ran a bigger deficit last month alone than it usually does all year. Washington spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to prop up small businesses and assist laid-off workers.

Updated at 8:44 a.m. ET

From airlines to paper mills, the job news is grim, and there are growing signs it won't be getting better anytime soon. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported nearly 2.4 million new applications for state and federal unemployment benefits last week.

Federal regulators have finalized a new rule for payday lenders that strips out a key provision crafted during the Obama administration. Under the revised rule, lenders will no longer have to check that borrowers can repay their loan when it comes due.

Consumer advocates say that without that protection, borrowers often get trapped having to borrow again and again, at interest rates of up to 400%.

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

Employers added a record 4.8 million jobs last month, as the U.S. economy continued to slowly bounce back from a deep and painful coronavirus recession. The unemployment rate dipped to 11.1%.

Job growth accelerated from May, when revised figures show employers added 2.7 million jobs.

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